Beyond Stereotypes

الأحد 12 نيسان 2009

On Thursday 16th April at 7 pm the Al-Hussein Cultural Centre in Ras al-Ain is opening its doors to an event arranged by The Danish Centre for Culture and Development in close cooperation with the Danish Embassy and the Royal Film Commission.

Written by H.E. Thomas F. Lund-Sørensen
Danish Ambassador

Beyond Stereotypes – as the event is called – will put spotlight on stereotypes.

I suppose most of us would like to be looked upon as individuals and not as belonging to one big bulk or group of individuals that can be put into a box defined by one culture, one nationality, one linguistic group and/or one religion. I also suppose that most of us have tried at one point or the other to be stereotyped into one of these boxes and felt that we did not belong there at all – although we did share some similarities with the others in that same box?

At a recent LEGO charity event that we had here in Jordan I attended a workshop with close to 80 participants. Each participant was given four identical yellow LEGO bricks and two red ones. Following, we were all asked to put together the bricks so that they would look like a duck. And guess what? Out of eighty ‘ducks’ not two single ‘ducks’ turned out to be identical – although they all came from the same little box of yellow and red LEGO bricks. Long live diversity!

Now – it might be that none of us were very talented LEGO brick builders but I am quite sure that most of the participants did know what a real duck looks like. But imagine if you had never seen a real duck in your entire life. Imagine if the only duck you ever saw was Donald Duck in a Walt Disney show and you truly believed that this is really how a duck looks like?

And isn’t that what sometimes happen to us? When we do not have the chance to make personal encounters we are forced to rely on what other people tell us and what we watch on the TV or read in the news.

In fact, what most of the world knows about the ‘others’ are based on what we are taught by the media – when we are watching a movie, reading the newspaper, facebooking or – as I am now – blogging on the internet.

In many ways we are lucky. Globalisation, satellite TV and the internet has given us opportunities that the majority of the generation before us had not even imagined would be possible. Opportunities not only to watch – but also an opportunity to interact.

These media are very powerful tools when it comes to creating stereotypes, transmitting them – or breaking them down. On Thursday 16th we are inviting you to meet a stand-up comedian, a journalist, a blogger, two filmmakers and an actor who will put spotlight on media and stereotypes. I hope that you will join us in a constructive reflection and debate over perceived stereotypes and how the media can help breaking down stereotypes – not building them up. To get the debate going I challenge you to start blogging about your thoughts right here and now and then we will follow up on the 16th.